Questions at midnight

What is Philosophy?
February 3, 1995

This book is a useful introduction to the work of one of the most challenging and provocative intellectual partnerships of the post war period, that of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. It arrives at a time when there is a small explosion in the number of introductions to and critical appraisals of the work of this peculiar but creative combination of philosopher and psychoanalyst which stretched over 20 years.

Given the growth of the secondary literature (much of it excellent), it is pleasant to return to the original source of the excitement and to re-engage with the subtly poetic but challenging preoccupations of Deleuze and Guattari. In particular, we can read their work in the light of Foucault's remark that "a lightening storm was produced which, one day, will be given the name of Deleuze: new thought is possible; thought again is possible . . .' Fittingly, this final volume produced before the death of Guattari in 1992 speaks of philosophy in its widest sense, and is a book which (as the translators note), takes up arms for the subject. "What is philosophy?" is a question, as the authors point out, to be posed in a moment of quiet restlessness, at midnight, when the more traditional philosophical questions have been exhausted. Their response is characteristic of much of their work; a meditation upon the formulation, invention and fabrication of philosophical concepts. It is this creation of concepts, and especially the invention of conceptual inquirers (the judge, the friend, the rival), that both affords an attack upon the sterility of philosophy as wisdom or truth claim, and also offers the possibility of a philosophy that is affirmative and creative (following Nietzsche) and perhaps ethical in the construction of the conceptual inquirer as the other (shadows of Levinas and Derrida here).

However, there is greater affinity between Deleuze and Guattari and the pre-Socratics, and Spinoza, than with other contemporary French philosophers. The affinity is in the idea of multiplicity and the Greek origin of philosophy.

To suggest this book as a point of departure into Deleuze and Guattari's oeuvre is not to deny its intrinsic importance. It brings together many of the dominant themes of their earlier work, albeit in a somewhat less controversial and accessible manner.

Christopher Stanley teaches philosophy of law at the University of Kent, Canterbury.

What is Philosophy?

Author - Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari
ISBN - 0 86091 686 3
Publisher - Verso
Price - £12.95
Pages - 253pp

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